As the digital-by-default online delivery of public, as well as commercial, services becomes common the threat, and potential impact, of ‘Identification Theft’ only increases.
At the same time, as online vulnerabilities increase, it is important not to forget the range and sophistication of offline threats.
Below is a brief explanation of what is commonly meant by the term ‘ID Theft’, how it can be spotted and how you can protect yourself, your family and friends from avoidable exposure.
What is the difference between ID Theft and ID Fraud?
Action Fraud describes Identity Theft as happening when fraudsters access enough information about someone’s identity (such as their name, date of birth, current or previous addresses) to commit a fraud. Identity theft can take place whether the victim is alive or deceased. Identity theft is often a precursor to fraud but is not considered a recordable crime in itself.
Action Fraud describes Identity Fraud as the use of that stolen identity in criminal activity to obtain goods or services by deception. Fraudsters can use your identity details to:
- Open bank accounts.
- Obtain credit cards, loans and state benefits.
- Order goods in your name.
- Take over your existing accounts.
- Take out mobile phone contracts.
- Obtain genuine documents such as passports and driving licences in your name.
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) states that your identity is one of your most valuable assets. If your identity is stolen, you can lose money and may find it difficult to get loans, credit cards or a mortgage.
Your name, address and date of birth provide enough information to create another ‘you’. An identity thief can use a number of methods to find out your personal information and can then use it to open bank accounts, take out credit cards and apply for state benefits in your name.
Top Tips to Spot Efforts to Steal Your Identity
The ICO identify a number of signs to look out for that may mean you are or may become a victim of identity theft:
- You have lost or have important documents stolen, such as your passport or driving licence.
- Mail from your bank or utility provider doesn’t arrive.
- Items that you don’t recognise appear on your bank or credit card statement.
- You apply for state benefits, but are told you are already claiming.
- You receive bills or receipts for goods or services you haven’t asked for.
- You are refused financial services, credit cards or a loan, despite having a good credit rating.
- You receive letters in your name from solicitors or debt collectors for debts that aren’t yours.
How to Protect Yourself and Others from ID Theft.
The ICO believe following the steps below will significantly lower the risk of falling prey to ID Theft:
- Store any documents carrying personal information – such as your driving licence, passport, bank statements, utility bills or credit card transaction receipts – in a safe and secure place.
- Shred or destroy your old documents so that nothing showing your name, address or other personal details can be taken.
- Monitor your credit report and regularly check your credit card and bank statements for suspicious activity.
- When you move house, contact your bank, credit and store card providers, mobile phone provider, utility providers, TV licensing, your doctor and dentist etc, and give them your new address – you don’t want the new tenants to have access to letters containing your personal information. You can also redirect your mail by contacting Royal Mail.
- Remember, less is more. The less you give away about yourself, the lower the risk of information falling into the wrong hands.
- Think before you buy online – use a secure website which displays the company’s contact details, look for a golden padlock symbol and a clear privacy and returns policy. Check the web address begins with https.
What Do i Do if i’m a Victim of ID Theft
If you think you are a victim of identity theft or fraud, act quickly to ensure you are not liable for any financial losses.
- Report all lost or stolen documents, such as passports, driving licences, credit cards and cheque books to the organisation that issued them.
- Inform your bank, building society and credit card company of any unusual transactions on your statement.
- Request a copy of your credit file to check for any suspicious credit applications.
- Report the theft of personal documents and suspicious credit applications to the police and ask for a crime reference number.
- Contact CIFAS (the UK’s Fraud Prevention Service) to apply for protective registration. Once you have registered you should be aware that CIFAS members will carry out extra checks to see when anyone, including you, applies for a financial service, such as a loan, using your address.
With Christmas coming, cost-of-living pressures mounting, and online service provision increasing, it has never been more important to protect your personal details from fraudsters and scammers. Don’t let fraudsters steal your identity.
The content above is drawn from a combination of two published sources from key stakeholders and experts in the field. These are:
Information Commissioner’s Office
For more information on how to report information about Identity Theft contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or visit:
For an alternative explanation of ID Theft, ID Fraud, and how to spot and report it go to Which? at: